My past week here in Napa has been without a doubt immensely interesting, not only for my time at Bin to Bottle, which is invaluable in and of its own right, but for my touring around the region as well. Admittedly, my tour of Napa valley winemaking was, at a suggestion, largely architectural but certain trends were interesting to note.
It is, for example, interesting to see, despite the international recognition California achieves, how much it devotes to market within its own state. Coming from New York, the current mentality seems to be, annoyingly, ‘If I can sell all my wines within New York, what need have I of international recognition, or indeed, of exporting’. Perhaps the disinterest comes from the nonexistence of a foundation from which to launch into the global market, i.e. the of lack of fame of New York as a wine region, and a certain inertia, or unwillingness, to invest in a venture that is thus far unneeded. Much of the wines of the old world, on the other hand, find their way onto the international market, often no matter the size of the winery nor the label, and the expectation seems to be that these wines will always be available from anywhere in the world.
Astonishingly, in California, the few big wineries I visited withheld many of their small lot wines from international sale. Many of these small lots, made from single plots, were amongst their most interesting wines and presented a different face of the winery altogether. One, to me, that was more playful and displayed the vineyard’s different aspects. Instead, the vineyards hold these wines to be sold at the winery, to wine club members or perhaps within the state, to restaurants. The general consensus I obtained was that it allowed for a special occasion at the winery and for them to offer something unique to those in the wine club or those within the state. I must admit that this presents a different side of things from what I have been used to and what I would have wanted for the New York State wine growing region. It behooves me to look at the trends in New York in a different light, one that might include and perhaps prioritise the local market much more.
Meanwhile, things at the winery have been going swimmingly. Over the past week and a half, I have had the opportunity to try my hand, not only on the crush pad and the laboratory, but in a tasting panel of wines as well. The 70/30 series, by Bin to Bottle, presents an attempt to help local vineyards, who have been suffering from the recent downturn and unable to sell their grapes, create their and market their own wine. As we tasted through these wines, I was struck again by how different our wine making regions were, as I looked through the harvest data for the wines. To the uninitiated, it might seem silly but the difference in Brix levels, pH, TA, concerns and issues with the winemaking process still does not fail to give me pause.
My time on the crush pad has also included (surprise, surprise) sanitation. Particularly with the end of harvest season, much of the equipment needs to be sanitised and tarped for storage till next harvest. Accordingly, I had to slip into their massive crusher and experienced no small delight in witnessing some of their finest equipment. Unfortunately, I wanted to take a video of the barrel sanitiser as it was rather impressive but by some unlucky circumstance, left my camera behind. As a result, I had to make do with a stream of photographs and some rather bad lighting…